Bird Photography / Birding / Vietnam

Photographing spectacular regional endemics birds in southern Vietnam | Dalat and Cat Tien

Regional endemic birds in southern Vietnam |Dalat and Cat Tien

I was truly fascinated by the endemic birds of Vietnam. As mentioned in my previous post, it was not too difficult to photograph the 7 endemic birds of Vietnam in Dalat if you have a good guide, good weather and blessed with a couple of bird waves. Besides just the endemic species, another thing to lookout for are the regional endemics that can be found in southern Vietnam. The regional endemic birds or Indochina endemics are birds found not only in Vietnam but also in neighbouring countries like Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.


The mists evaporated from the humid forest ground as the shafts of light poured onto the country road near Tan Phu (not far from Cat Tien National Park) in southern Vietnam. We were ready in the hide by 7 am every morning to photograph the birds.
A clear mist forms from the humidity, with shafts of light peeking onto the country road near Tan Phu (not far from Cat Tien National Park) in southern Vietnam. By 7 am every morning, we were all ready to photograph the birds.

Photographing regional endemic birds in South Vietnam; Pittas

Pittas are known to be the ground dwelling jewels of the forest floor in the tropical rainforest. They are usually very colourful but extremely shy birds to photograph. It took us days to wait for a good chance to capture the pittas from our hides. One of the most sought after birds of southern Vietnam is the Bar-bellied Pitta.

1. Bar-Bellied Pitta. We were seated in the hide at about 7 am. By 7:30 am, suddenly everything went quiet. We heard the call of the Bar-bellied Pitta from behind us and towards the left. Although, we could hear the calls getting closer, we still could not locate the bird. We held our breaths and kept very still. Suddenly, the sound shifted towards our right. However, it was still not visible. By about 8 am, the morning sun shone through the cracks of the dense forest, providing us with more visibility. The Bar-bellied Pitta suddenly out of nowhere hopped out of the dense forest and happily made its way towards us. We were ecstatic. This was the female Bar-bellied Pitta. This bird came out to entertain us about 4 times that day. However, the male Bar-bellied Pitta refused to appear until the last day.

Bar-bellied Pitta a regional endemic bird in south Vietnam
Female Bar-bellied Pitta was not shy to came out to entertain us. Image taken near in Tan Phu southern Vietnam
Male Bar-bellied Pitta refused to appear until the last day. Bar-bellied Pitta is a Regional endemic bird in southern Vietnam.

2. The Blue-rumped Pitta was extremely shy. While the previous female Bar-bellied Pitta appeared 4 times that day, this shy Blue-rumpled Pitta only came out about an hour before sunset when light was very dim. The time was almost 4 pm with my camera ISO set at 4000, and shutter speed at 1/80 second. Some pictures were shot even at speed of 1/10 second at 10 minutes before 5 pm. The female Blue-rumpled Pitta only came out after 5 pm when the forest had no more sunlight. It was challenging to shoot under the circumstances as my camera EOS 5D Mark III refused to cooperate in focusing with such dim lighting. I whipped out my torch light to guide my camera to focus and utilized my external flash to capture the images. Finally, I was able to get both male and female before we left the hide.

Blue-rumped Pitta a regional endemic bird in south Vietnam
A beautiful male Blue-rumped Pitta at Tan Phu, Cat Tien National Park in southern Vietnam looks rather similar to the Rusty-naped Pitta but its lower back and rump is distinctively blue.
Blue-rumped Pitta a regional endemic bird in south Vietnam
The female Blue-rumped Pitta has green crown and nape. It was very shy that it only appeared just before sunset. I had no choice but to use my torch light to focus and an external flash to supplement the fading natural light.

3. Blue Pitta came out quietly without much wait at the hide in the morning in Dalat. It is a female because of its duller colour and browner back.

Blue Pitta regional endemic bird in south Vietnam
Female Blue Pitta in Dalat is a regional endemic birds of Indochina. Notice the dull, olive upper parts with slight blue tinge.
Blue Pitta regional endemic bird in south Vietnam
The above picture is a male Blue Pitta taken in kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand as we did not manage to see the male bird in Dalat. The male Blue Pitta has blue upper part while female has dull, olive upper parts with slight blue tinge.

4. Rusty-napes Pitta on the other hand was very cautious before appearing. It had a deep rufous head and underpart. We kept absolutely quiet in the hide while it stood stationary for a solid 10 minutes at the edge of the forest. After surveying its surroundings, it finally appeared on the clear ground from the dense forest. We were delighted that our patience had paid off. It only appeared once and within 5 minutes it vanished back into the forest.

Rusty-naped Pitta a regional endemic bird in south Vietnam
Male Rusty-naped Pitta kept absolutely motionless like a rock for a good 10 minutes before approaching us. Image was taken near Dalat in southern Vietnam from bird hide.

Regional Endemic bird in Southern Vietnam; Germain’s Peacock Pheasant,

The most wanted pheasant of Southern Vietnam is the Germain’s Peacock-pheasant. The name commemorates the French colonial army’s veterinary surgeon Louis Rodolphe Germain. It is endemic to the Indochinese region. It can be photograph in Cat Tien National Park not far from the entrance to the park. The male bird seemed to be shy and only appeared once at around 3 pm while the female came out freely and frequently. It looks like Grey Peacock-pheasant but smaller and darker with finer denser pale marking and darker ocelli with more greenish-blue.

Germain's peacock phesant a regional endemic bird in south Vietnam
Male Germain’s Peacock pheasant from hide in Cat Tien National Park. Regional endemic bird found in southern Vietnam
Germain's peacock phesant a regional endemic bird in south Vietnam
Female Germain’s Peacock pheasant above came out freely and frequently.
Grey peacock pheasant Thailand
The larger Grey Peacock Pheasant from Mae Wong National Park, Thailand is used for comparison.

Regional endemic bird in southern Vietnam; Indochinese Wren-Babbler or Short-tailed Scimitar Babbler,

The Indochinese Wren-babbler has slightly down curved bill and short tail. Formally called Short-tailed Scimitar Babbler. Some people think perhaps it represents a missing link between wren-babblers and scimitar-babblers. It is an Indochina endemic. We photographed the Indochinese Wren-babblers in Dalat.

Indochinese Wren-babbler a regional endemic bird in south Vietnam
Indochinese Wren-babbler or Short-tailed Scimitar Babbler is an Indochinese endemic bird found in southern Vietnam near Dalat.

Regional endemic bird in Southern Vietnam; Grey-bellied Tesia.

There were many lifers in Vietnam for me including this small tailless elusive and jumpy warbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, in the evergreen forest 1000 m above sea level. The bird is like bar of metronome jumping from left to right then right to left non stop. It can be found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand. Very rare resident elsewhere but not difficult to see in Dalat, Vietnam.

The objective for this write up is to create the awareness for the regional endemic birds in the Indochinese region in southern Vietnam. I wish you all the best birding in Vietnam.

You can read up more on our previous posting on 7 endemic birds of Vietnam in Dalat here.

Gey-bellied Tesia regional endemic bird in south Vietnam
One of my favourite birds is the Grey-bellied Tesia in evergreen forest above 1000 m. A tailless warblers that cannot stand still.

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